“Jackass Forever”: the big hug you need right now

Spike Jonze (L) and Johnny Knoxville at the MoMi screening of ‘Jackass Forever’ Monica Schipper / Stringer

Nostalgia is a powerful force that has only grown in strength over the past couple of years as new experiences have been increasingly limited and we have been stuck scrolling through memories. As each generation ages, less and less entertainment focuses on us and our experiences – it’s only natural – but right now no one knows how to market current trends. So instead, we fall back on the things we knew when our brains were still growing. As we spend two years browsing through old memories, it’s hard not to feel like every tender moment has been exploited to sell us a t-shirt, tote bag, or tickets to a pop festival. -punk.

Much of it feels cheesy and forced, like a cup of coffee about how you prefer to drink wine. What doesn’t seem hollow, however, is Donkey. The 22-year-old powerhouse releases its fourth installment in theaters today, and I don’t know a single person who feels like the excitement is forced. I considered writing a direct review, but I have no objective feelings about a franchise that shaped my stupid adult brain so much.

I saw the first film at the cinema twice: on my first date, then with my father. This last experience provided me with two of my most powerful memories with my father. One of them was squirming when I realized I had to watch That scene with the little car with him; the second was when I turned to him as the credits rolled to ask him what he thought. What followed was a break so pregnant you felt she was entering her third trimester, and then Bob Millman rolled out the most thoughtful response he could come up with for his 15-year-old daughter.

“Honey . . . not that there’s a single thing wrong with that, but it was much more cheerful than I expected.

This phrase has been floating around in my head for years to come, and I think it partly explains why there is so much lasting power for Donkey. One of the franchise’s more subtle messages was that there’s nothing wrong with being a little gay with your guys, and the team acknowledged that their intention was to fight against homophobia in 2000s bro culture. I’ve argued in the past that Donkey is one of the reasons the culture has become less homophobic overall, and probably will again.

There are many wonderful things about Fooled forever. The new cast shines, and they’ve thankfully smashed the glass gutter and brought a girl back into the fold, comedian Rachel Wolfson. (Stephanie Hodge had to retire from the franchise very, very early.) Jasper Dolphin and his father Darkshark bring tender joy as a father-son team scared of bugs and birds of prey. The joy that Zack Holmes, Poopies and Eric Manaka show at having a chance to get hurt with their heroes is palpable.

The basic happiness of Fooled forever, however, hangs out with old friends after some time apart. (Which, after the past two years, needs no further explanation.) These are guys we’ve been watching for over 20 years. I would recognize Johnny Knoxville’s laugh anywhere. Ditto Steve-O’s rasp or Pontius’ baritone laugh. (I’m still confronted with how much I’ve seen Dave England go to the bathroom.) After 12 years away, it feels like a big hug to see Lance Bangs throw up again, and there’s a very familiar warmth of laughter to watch Danger Ehren flees with the film while enduring the gauntlet of a cut test. Jackass has always walked the line between the dumbest thing you’ve ever seen and performance art – one of the most powerful examples is in the second episode, when Chris Pontius drinks horse cum after John Waters made an appearance – but arguments for its merit as the art falls by the wayside when you can watch it with your friends and laugh together on a classic comedy premise, someone gets hit in the nuts. At this point, we need all the hugs we can get, rude or not.

“Jackass Forever”: the big hug you need right now

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